Fishermen visit Obama vacation with concerns about Gulf & seafood safety

Video from today's press conference in Panama City Beach, Florida.  Photos and press release below.  Thank you to NRDC for sharing their photos with us.

PRESS RELEASE                                                                   August 15th 2010
Kathy Birren (Florida) 727-919-5936      
Tracy Kuhns (Louisiana) 504-289-7162
Chris Bryant (Alabama) 251-454-6739     
Thao Vu (Mississippi) 334-501-1839



On Sunday, August 15th, fishing families from across the Gulf Coast gathered in Panama City Beach, Florida, with a message for President Obama:  The Gulf of Mexico is still infused with oil and dispersants from the BP disaster, threatening marine life, livelihoods, and the health of the American people.

Fishing families came from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida, hoping America will hear their unified message.  “We do not believe this crisis is over. We believe that Gulf and inland waters have been prematurely re-opened to fishing. Fishermen do not want to lose our credibility or deliver contaminated seafood to market and make people sick.  It is time that government step up and protect us, our Gulf and the American public from further, and possibly irreversible, harm,” said Kathy Birren, a Commercial Fisher from Hernando Beach, Florida.  But the President and our state officials are trying to declare an end to it.

While President Obama and state officials claim that the Gulf is “open for business,” these fishermen say the spraying of dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico is ongoing and they’re concerned that seafood pulled from impacted waters is unsafe for eating.  

The tissue testing of this seafood is inadequate and testing for the toxic dispersants is non-existent.  Tracy Kuhns, Louisiana Bayoukeeper, suggests, “Until proper testing is done, funds should be provided to all Gulf Coast states to distinguish between fresh/frozen seafood harvested prior to the impact of the oil/dispersant disaster and seafood harvested in fishing grounds closed then re-opened to fishing, to help consumers identify safe Gulf seafood.”

"I think it's crucial for the public to be made aware of the concerns of the commercial fishermen.  And if a commercial fisherman who makes his living off of those products doesn't want to deliver them to the public, the public needs to know why," says Chris Bryant, a commercial fisherman on the Alabama Gulf Coast.

We do not know yet what the full long-term impacts will be on Gulf fisheries.  It may take years for our fisheries to recover, sending fishing families and coastal communities into an economic decline.  “Immediate creation of both short and long term clean up and recovery jobs for fishing families and other coastal communities, that are culturally sensitive is critical, will prevent further economic damage,” states Thao Vu, Mississippi Coalition of Vietnamese American Fisherfolk and Families.

The fishermen have four demands:

1.    Stop spraying toxic dispersants.

2.    Keep fishing grounds closed until better testing methods of seafood prove that it is safe to eat.

3.    Establish community health care clinics with occupational & environmental medicine (OEM) doctors to treat citizens & workers.

4.    Create short- and long- term jobs that go to local commercial fishermen first.